Essay Chenin Blanc Blend 2018
This is a medium-bodied white blend made primarily from South Africa's classic white variety, Chenin Blanc. Chenin Blanc is known for its generosity of fruit and friendliness towards most foods. This wine shows typical Chenin Blanc aromas of pineapple, litchi, and guava. A few months of lees contact enhances the texture of this wine, while still maintaining a fruity palate and fresh finish. The addition of Viognier and Roussanne adds complexity with each component contributing its distinctive characteristics to the blend, bringing out hints of pear, melon, and granadilla. This wine is perfect on its own as an aperitif but will also pair well with a wide range of foods, especially sushi, oysters, Asian curries, sweet-and-sour dishes, and summer salads.
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“Essay” refers to the popular abbreviation for South Africa (SA) as well as implying an “assemblage” or blending of things to create a whole greater than its parts. Produced by partners José Conde and Tyrrel Myburgh, Essay Wines consists of two blended wines produced in a Mediterranean style representing the best from the Agter-Paarl area. The vineyards are unirrigated and planted on old Malmesbury shale soils producing wines with distinctive flavor and texture.
With an important wine renaissance in full swing, impressive red and white bargains abound in South Africa. The country has a particularly long and rich history with winemaking, especially considering its status as part of the “New World.” In the mid-17th century, the lusciously sweet dessert wines of Constantia were highly prized by the European aristocracy. Since then, the South African wine industry has experienced some setbacks due to the phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s and political difficulties throughout the following century.
Today, however, South Africa is increasingly responsible for high-demand, high-quality wines—a blessing to put the country back on the international wine map. Wine production is mainly situated around Cape Town, where the climate is generally warm to hot. But the Benguela Current from Antarctica provides brisk ocean breezes necessary for steady ripening of grapes. Similarly, cooler, high-elevation vineyard sites throughout South Africa offer similar, favorable growing conditions.
South Africa’s wine zones are divided into region, then smaller districts and finally wards, but the country’s wine styles are differentiated more by grape variety than by region. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is the country’s “signature” grape, responsible for red-fruit-driven, spicy, earthy reds. When Pinotage is blended with other red varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir (all commonly vinified alone as well), it is often labeled as a “Cape Blend.” Chenin Blanc (locally known as “Steen”) dominates white wine production, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc following close behind.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.